Arab Intellectuals Debate 'National Dialogue for Syria'


Recently, Damascus hosted a two-day symposium entitled "National Dialogue for Syria" with the participation of prominent Arab intellectuals and authors from Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, and Egypt.  

During his meeting with the intellectuals and authors who took part in the symposium which kicked off on February 24th at al-Assad Library in Damascus, Prime Minister, Wael al-Halqi stressed the intellectuals key role in unveiling the conspiracies hatched against the Arab nation to fragment it and plunder its wealth.

Al-Halqi added that the Arab intellectuals' participation in the symposium reflects their support for Syria and their understanding for the US-Zionist fierce attack against the last steadfast and resisting fortress in the Arab region.

Al-Halqi, who praised the transparent atmosphere prevailed in the symposium, said the event brought together Syria's lovers and supporters to discuss ways of saving the country and restoring national unity, security and stability.

He stressed that the government is keen to attain security and stability nationwide and to confront the cultural and media invasion which disseminates killing and distorts facts.   

For their part, the Arab intellectuals stressed that they are confident that "Syria will win victory over its enemies and will remain the beating heart of Arabism."


Following the meeting, Arab intellectual, Yahya Abu Zakariya, told reporters that Arab intellectuals across the Arab world realize the challenges facing the (Arab) nation and its message.

"The crisis in Syria unmasked conflicts in the region and produced a comprehensive vision about the choice of either joining the camp of resistance and real Arab message, or the camp of being loyal to Zionism and its interests," Abu Zakariya said.

He indicated that the Arabs, who are interested in halting bloodshed in Syria, must support dialogue based on the principle of preserving the Syrian national identity. 

"The steadfastness of the Syrian state and its victory over the conspiracy and its tools is a victory to all Arabs… The terrorists' attempts to spread fear through blasts and the West's plans to hinder any civilized Arab project prove the bankruptcy of conspirators," Abu Zakariya added.

Belongingness and loyalty

 Additional comment about the crisis in Syria was made by Member of the Lebanese al-Marada Movement's Politburo, Vera Yammine, who said: "The culture of belongingness to the homeland has contributed to enhancing the Syrians' steadfastness and to creating a spirit of being ready to sacrifice to preserve Syria's identity and dignity at any price so as to keep the country united and to emerge from the ongoing crisis stronger."

Spokesman of the Palestinian Popular Liberation Front-General Command- Anwar Raja referred to the intellectuals' pivotal role in enhancing the culture of resistance and loyalty to the homeland, in consolidating a popular situation in the Arab world that reconsiders priorities of the conflict and in confronting the plots targeting Arabs' existence, civilization and identity.

Another viewpoint raised by the Egyptian intellectual, Ashraf Bayomi, asserted that launching dialogue in Syria at all levels renews hopes for attaining an immediate solution to the current crisis.

He indicated the importance of studying the situation in the Arab countries in the past two years and of focusing on how certain political mentalities were developed in some Arab societies.


The symposium issued a statement including several recommendations and proposals stipulating for the reactivation of the Syrian intellectuals' role in rebuilding moral values and upgrading social awareness through enhancing national belongingness and adherence to national unity and identity.

The statement also underlined the need to confront the fanaticism and exclusion mentality in order to keep national fabric strong and immune, so as all the Syrians could work hand in hand for the good of the homeland and its citizens.

Moreover, the statement considered scientific research as a national priority, so it called for avoiding past mistakes and holding special symposiums for Syrian youths.

The statement warned the Syrian youths against the dangerous effects of foreign-funded organizations and the false slogans of some media. It also called for reactivating youths' role in providing useful ideas that benefit comprehensive national dialogue.

Among the recommendations was also a call for focusing on the important role of the armed forces in protecting the country's security and borders.

Further steps

Culture Minister, Dr. Lubana Mshawah, in her speech at the conclusion of the symposium, said "by love we save our homeland, and by wisdom we can propose positive points on which decision-makers can depend to end the crisis in Syria."

She added that the symposium aims to define intellectual's role in national dialogue and in building minds," noting that the symposium is a step to be followed by further ones on the right path.

Principle of dialogue

Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, who took part in the symposium said: "Our enemies are those who neither feel proud of their belongingness to Syria nor respect the country's heritage."

On the symposium's topic "National Dialogue's Role in Supporting Our Existence", the minister said common points could be reached through dialogue and when "we depend on the principle of dialogue this means that we reject the principle of fighting".

He underscored that the political plan recently proposed by President Bashar al-Assad to resolve the crisis in Syria is wider than a political initiative as it also includes key dimensions connected to economy and reconstruction.

"The principle of dialogue is not the creation of the Syrian leadership. It is as old as history. Besides, it can't be stopped so long as it is connected to the core of human beings, and  now it is being invested in political work," al-Zoubi said.

He pointed out that pre-stances adopted by opposition forces abroad towards any proposal to surpass the crisis was because they didn't read or understand President Bashar al-Assad's speech and political plan.

The minister said: "laying down weapon is not cowardice or surrender, and it can't be described like this except when it is done during a battle with Israel or with other foreign enemy."

In the same context, Journalists Union's Head, Ilyas Murad, stressed that political solution is the only way to foil the Zionist plot and aggression on Syria.

Basma Qaddour  


Music in Syria

A lot of findings indicating the Syrians' love for and interest in music and singing were discovered in a place known today as «Tel Hariri». Those findings, which date back to more than 4000 years, show parts of the songs and lyrics which are considered as the oldest in humanitarian cultural heritage. The findings correspond to the oldest Akkadian musical script found in the thirteenth century BC.
Arabs in Belad el- Sham knew music, singing and musical instruments and they have been affected by the music of the previous civilizations including the Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Persian. They took from the Persian, Greek and Byzantine music what suits their music and singing. They used various musical instruments like lutes, flutes, mandolins, tambourines and drums.

During the weakness era of the Abbasid state, al- Mosul and Aleppo had become great centers for cultural life. Among the great musicians of this period were: Saif al-Doula al-Hamadani (944-967) who was an eloquent poet, Abu al-Tayeb Al- Mutanabbi and the great poet and philosopher Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi, who was familiar with the science of Greece and was good at playing lute. Al- Farabi wrote several books including: 'The great musician', and 'Words in the Music'

In 1058-1250, during the time of the Seljuk , the Ayyubid state and the Mamluk rule, Arab countries in general and Levant in particular suffered a lot of the Ottoman hegemony that affected all aspects of life especially music. Consequently, Arabic music was greatly influenced by the Turkish stereotype which affected the Arab music identity. Turkish Sultans were so interested in music that they used to bring most distinguished musicians and singers into their palaces to enjoy musical evenings. The Turkish musical theories and science were the same theories which were applied in the Arab countries and Persia. Among the Ottoman talented musicians whose compositions were played in the Levant and other countries were: Sultan Selim III, Yusuf Pasha, Osman al-Tanbouri and Hajji Arafi beck.

But, the best Syrian singers of the Sufis in the eighteenth century were: Mohammed bin Abdul Qader Al-Sharif 1688-1756, and Mohammed bin Kojak Ali Halabi 1694-1773, who had great knowledge of music as he composed and tuned several stanzas.

During the rule of Ibrahim Pasha, the art of stanzas, which was attributed to Aleppo, emerged at the hands of poet Ameen al-Joundi (1764-1837).

Ahmed Abu Khalil Qabbani and his lyrical theater appeared as unique phenomenon in music and singing during this period.

Music Clubs:

Syria, since the beginning of the twentieth century, has witnessed a true musical renaissance thanks to music clubs, as these clubs were able to prove their existence in spite of the great social and religious challenges. Late musician Shafiq Shabib, was the first to found a music club in Damascus in 1914 calling it "Eastern Music Club". In 1925-1927, late musician Tawfiq Fathallah established another club aiming at defending musicians' rights.

 Several clubs and institutes were also established in Aleppo. The most famous of which were: « Aleppo Music Club » and « Shahba Club for Art», the «Club of the Armenian Association» and «Catholic Club». Sheikh Ali Darwish, and Sheikh Omar Batash, Ahmed Opry, Mamdouh Al Jabri and Omar Abu Risha were the most prominent members of these clubs.
The first official conservatory was founded by the state in 1943.


The First Oriental Conservatory was established in 1943 during the era of President Taj al-Din al-Hassani to support the music clubs and conservatories in the country.  
The second conservatory, which was the first formal institute affiliated to the Ministry of Education and called the Conservatory, was established in 1947. In 1950 a presidential decree was issued providing for the establishment of the Oriental Conservatory in Damascus. It was officially opened in 15/03/1951, but closed in 1959.
Arab Music Institute, known today as (Solhi al-Wadi Institute), was founded in 1960. It started its work according to the latest methods used in conservatories world over and it is still working until now.


In 1961, Syrian  musicians agreed to establish a large orchestra, led by Salim Sarweh on behalf of the "Artists Union". 1962, witnessed the establishment of the "Dawn Band" led by Ameen al-Khayat. The Syrian Arab TV has also established its own band led by Ibrahim Abdel Aal. "Al-Hojra Music Band" led by Solhi al-Wadi was founded in 1967.

Music festivals: The annual festival of Peace and Amity, which is still being supervised by the Ministry of Culture, is one of the most important music festivals in the country. The festival, which is usually held in Lattakia, witnesses the participation of prominent musicians and singers from Syria and the Arab world.

The "Syrian Song Festival" in Aleppo, is held annually under the supervision of the General Commission for Radio and Television.
The Higher Institute for Music was established in the sixteenth of November 1990 with the aim of upgrading and developing the Syrian music and musicians.
Syrian National Symphony Orchestra was created in 1992. It consists of eighty-five musicians and has played a large number of musical masterpieces during the concerts held mainly in Damascus.

Amal Farhat

History of Arab Music

Music is as old as human history. Psychological studies stress that music soothes the feelings and beautifies senses.

Singing and music have so far constituted a sociological phenomenon that distinguishes peoples and nations. Anthropological scientists believe that music plays an important role in forming the public taste considering it as one of the basic postulates in human culture


Pre-Historic era:

          The first script, depicting Arab music, dated back to the Banipal inscriptions. The script illustrates how Arab prisoners used to spend their time in singing and playing music while they were working for their Assyrian masters.

At the beginning, music associated with magic, but it had soon moved to the temples and became a collective work after it was individual. So it became more organized and more consistent with the religious rites.


Pre-Islamic era


Most of the researchers consider that the roots of Arab music and singing date back to the  fifth and sixth centuries AD, which are the, pre-Islamic era where Arabic language was represented in most beautiful images in the poems Omrou' al- Qays in addition to the emergence of some musical instruments.

The Arabs in that era did not respect singing as a profession.

Islamic era:

The reception ceremony, that was held for Prophet Mohammed( Peace be upon him) in the Al-Madeena al-Munawara city, where men and women rushed happily to receive him and participated in singing to celebrate his arrival, is considered a milestone in the history of Arabic music and singing .
Many of ancient and modern scholars insist on the prohibition of singing, but the prophet (PBUH) forbade only the kind of singing which hurts people's feelings and shyness and did not agree with the teachings of Islam. Coptic Sereen was the first songstress in the dawn of Islam.


Umayyad era:


The Umayyad era had witnessed lyrical and musical renaissance supervised and supported by the Umayyad caliphs. Then, the musical renaissance adopted new ways depending on scientific methods. Younis al-Kateb, was the first who wrote in this field. The (Book of melody) is one of his most famous books.  Abu al-Faraj al-Asfahani said Younis al-Kateb was the first to write about Arab music and singing. There were two schools for singing, one of them was in Mecca and the other was in al-Madeena al-Munawara. Each one of these schools had its own methods and lyrical style.

Jameela, Dalal, Rahma, Ma'bad, Malek, Habab and Sallama, were among the famous singers of this era.

More sophisticated musical instruments such as multiple strings lute, harp, tambourine, drum in addition to the violin, were used during that period.

Abbasid era:


In the Abbasid era, there had been a real revolution created by Ibrahim al-Mousli and his son Isaac al-Mousli and Ibrahim Ibn al-Mahdi. Singing and music took a new dimension due to the economic boom, which had had a clear impact on the state and then staff working in this field and in translation.

Therefore, music had become an independent science especially when art lovers began to read the books of (Aristotle) and other philosophers of Greece on music. They reached up to add new conditions that enriched the chapters of these books through their valuable theories in this field and created a new science calling it the music science. They did not stop at this point, a lot of researchers engaged in studying and analyzing the songs and music of other peoples and nations.

Al-Farabi, al-Kindi and Wasfi Eddin al-Rumi al-Baghdadi were among the most important researchers whose writings were main references for Western musicians. "Brothers Safa" were also among music lovers who gave musical aesthetic concepts an exceptional importance and worked to create a new concept of music. They stated deep ideas about the nature of music, and its psychological effects. Their philosophical and spiritual doctrine attributed beauty, in all its specters, to God.


In Andalusia:

 Among the most prominent musicians in Andalusia was al-Farabi, who wrote a masterpiece on music, entitled the "Great Book of Music" and Ziryab to whom most important achievements in the process of musical development were attributed. He managed to reach very important musical achievements represented by spreading the orient music. He also established the first institute for music and developed the Lute by adding the fifth string to it.

To be continued.

Amal Farhat

Workshop on Raising Awareness about Syrian Cultural Heritage

The General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (GDAM) has recently participated in a workshop in Jordan aiming to raise awareness about the cultural heritage in Syria and the danger of illicit trafficking of cultural properties.

The four-day event was organized in Amman by (UNESCO) in cooperation with international experts and the Swiss Government.

 Representatives of the Syrian border police, customs and the GDAM in addition to participants from the antiquities authorities of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, beside international experts in the field of the cultural heritage took part in the workshop.

The  GDAM General Director Maamoun Abdulkarim said in a press statement that ''the Syrian participation focuses on the deteriorated situation of Syrian antiquities since the beginning of the ongoing crisis in the country and on means of protecting them''.

He added the workshop reviewed the activities which have been carried out by UNESCO since the beginning of the crisis, methods of combating the illicit trafficking of the Syrian antiquities in addition to regional cooperation to protect cultural heritage.

The workshop also discussed the threats the Syrian archeological sites and cultural heritage are being exposed to and the plans to be drawn up to guarantee preserving the Syrian cultural heritage.

Rawaa Ghanam

Al-Arfi house:

 A new venue to disseminate culture

In the context of the efforts to transform houses of prominent Syrian figures into museums to disseminate culture, the Ministry of Culture has recently inaugurated the museum of Scholar Mohammad said al-Arfi, member of the Arabic Language Academy and a creative writer who left many books about Islam and the militant history of Arab world.  

 The several-room museum is equipped with all means to activate the cultural scene in Damascus and help in reviving earlier activities such as the story teller (al-Hakawati), the magic box, and the music hall.

“The Ministry’s plan to revive heritage and disseminate culture meets with the desire of Al-Arfi family to recall the memory of scholar saeed al-Arfi, and bring back his works to limelight, so as to learn from his values and teaching in bringing up the new generation, “said Minister of Culture Dr. Loubana Moushaweh, in an opening ceremony to the house.

The Minister noted the need to preserve Syria’s rich history, as a source of our pride to enhance national commitment, and a motivation for further creativity.

The Minister also noted the importance of preserving our heritage as enabling tools to join modernity, noting the continuous correlation between the past and the present.

 Khaled falhoot.